BJ Stewart: GRIT - The Story Behind The Cover

BJ Stewart: GRIT... The Story Behind The Cover

What do you recall about the day of the shot?
A cold brisk wind from the west but a gorgeous sunny day, maybe an hour or so away from sunset. It was in fact a photo shoot of sorts for Cuillin Music (mark 3 - featuring Martyn, Kirsten, Dierdre and Stewart) rather than specifically for GRIT but as always with Martyn, more of a walk and a muck about rather than work. Location of shot. Near the north point of Mull. Name of the hill... Like most places in Scotland there seems to be confusion, or at least it's difficult to come up with a straight answer. The maps claim the hill is called 'Meall an Inbhire' but it turns out the Mulleachs I've spoken to call it 'Cnoc Fuar' (it's only 264 m high). So, officially 'Meall an Inbhire' which seems to roughly translate from gaelic as bump or hill or adam's apple(?) of or near or at the river mouth or confluence etc etc. I guess the water meets below the hill from the sound of mull on the east and the atlantic on the west. The local name is cool though... Cnoc Fuar: cnoc = hill and fuar is cold or bleak, chilly, frigid, stingy, sober even! or all of the above which is often the beauty of the gaelic language. You can just imagine the miserable wee man cursing the weather and giving it it's name!

Did you have other locations in mind?
The location was the only location we visited that day. Fairly close to Tobermory so it suited us all. We tried some group shots but it wasn’t going too well (I detest doing ‘band’ shots). I think there’s a throw away shot on the MB web page in the gallery right now. While there I thought it was probably a good idea to do a couple individual shots of Martyn. I liked the trig point idea as it mirrored Martyn’s trig icon idea from the album ‘Hardland’.

What was Martyn like to work with as a subject?

Martyn was both a joy and a nightmare to photograph and could turn on the ‘public image’ look at any time. Three seconds of perfection and then back to the playful, mischevious Martyn that I knew much better. Plenty of time though to get focused and exposures right for his micro performance. There was only 2-3 frames shot before the ‘moment’ had passed.

What equipment was used?
Shot on simple 35mm colour neg. Nikon fm2 camera.

Did you know at the time you had taken such an iconic/defining photo of Martyn?
The day we took the photograph certainly wasn’t like that. I had no idea that we had taken the image to be used for GRIT or that it would become so used in the future. The background is Ardnamurchan opposite Mull where Martyn and Kirsten lived before moving full time to Mull. The image was taken in either 2001 or 2002.

How pleased were you with that photo?
I almost don’t associate myself with the image when I see it. Real World Records retouched the album cover. The background was made to be totally symmetrical unlike the ‘raw’ image.

Do you have any regrets?
I do regret that I didn’t sort out Martyn’s left sleeve of his T-shirt for the photograph. He had probably just a second before been upside down on the trig point. Other regrets are now that I didn’t take more images of Martyn. We were too busy having fun. I handed dozens of prints, negatives and transparencies over to Martyn who passed them on to various others working in the media and they were never seen again.

BJ Stewart: Questions on Photography

How long have you been a photographer?
I got into photography almost by accident in 1989. Studied at Napier Polytechnic (University) 1989- 1993 including a year out to work with Chris Hall Photography in Edinburgh.

What type of cameras do you shoot with?
I used to shoot with all formats. 35mm all the way through to 10x8” cameras. Nowadays 90 % 35mm Canon digital camera.

Which is your most-used lens?
Most used lenses 17-35mm f2.8 or 100mm f 2.

Are you a self taught photographer or did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes?
No. Taught at Napier by excellent teachers - photographers Robin Gillanders, Don Mccallister, Chick Chalmers. I Worked with Chris Hall where I learned more in 6 months working than I did in 3 years of studying.

What makes you choose to shoot something in B&W over color?
Black and white - colour… it’s all the same nowadays. Just shoot and do the rest in Adobe Photoshop.

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
Favourite accessory… hmmm… muckle tripod.

Are you a Mac or PC lover?
Mac. I hate PC’s with a passion that worries me ;)

What’s the best part of being a photographer?
Best part of being photographer is the people you meet and the access to things you might never see ie Badgers at 3.00am as you wait for the sun to come up.

What’s the worst part of being a photographer?
Worst part of job is dealing with the politics.

And to finish… 5 of BJ Stewart’s favorite images
Images will appear here soon... Aye